Retired Staff Sargent Innocent Abakpa has seen a lot of dead bodies. He’s no more scared of death since surviving the 1967 – 1970 Civil War in Nigeria where he fought on the side of the Federal Government.

He was in the middle of the battle, Onitsha to be precise, where the thick of the action was.

Recruited probably because of the war, he was deployed straight into battle front after finishing from training school.

Bounce News had a one-on-one chat with Abakpa, and he shared his story.

“I joined the Nigerian Army on the 16th of September 1967

“We were selected from Otukpo, and Otukpo to Makurdi. From Makurdi we were finally taken to Kaduna where we underwent our training. After training we were moved to Lagos.

“On getting to Lagos, one day, we were woken up in the middle of the night and brand-new riffles were handed to each of us."


The rifle was not given to him for fashion, it was his personal tool that would be useful to him from that moment henceforth, at least till the end of the war.

“The following morning, we moved to Asaba to go and start fighting, that was December 1967.

“At Asaba, we moved on the 24th of December in a bid to cross River Niger to Onitsha, but the first set of soldiers that attempted to cross suffered a huge casualty, so they decided that we take another rout, and passed through Idah. On our way, we passed through Ochadamo where we spent one week including Christmas day.

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“On that Christmas day, people were surprised to wake up and see soldiers all over the village. The food they prepared for Christmas was brought to us and we bought and ate.

“We spent one week at Ochadamo, then on January 1, 1968, we were asked by our commander to ‘fall in’, and he was addressing us that as we are going to war now, not all of us will come back. I said within myself that ‘is this the way this man is supposed to address us? He is supposed to give us words of encouragement’.

"Then on the first day of January, we started to the war front."


Like many soldiers who were at the battle front during the war, Abakpa’s experience was horrible. For the first time in his life, he saw blood stains and dead bodies all around. At first he was afraid but the more he saw and hear sounds of guns, the bolder and more fearless he became.

“Everybody was panicking because we have never experienced a war before, and as we were going, the first dead body I saw, I was not myself. Within a short time, we started hearing gunshot everywhere. Then I took courage that God knows those who will survive and those who will die, and we continued.

“At the first time, I fear death so much, but during this war, I did not fear death again, even if somebody dies close to me, I find it difficult to cry because my eyes have seen so many deaths.

He has also had a near-death experience, and has lost a very close colleague and friend, a moment that is still very fresh in his memory.

“A colleague of mine which we joined the army together, as we were fighting, he was in my front, and he had a bullet shot. I told him ‘I will not be able to carry you now because the firing is too much’.

“When everything settled a bit, I carried him on my shoulder, carried his riffle and crossed the road to put him inside the ambulance, he opened his mouth and told me ‘Innocent, I will not survive’, I told him ‘this bullet met you on the leg, why are you talking like that?’

“He said he’s not going to survive, but me, nothing will happen to me, that I risk my life to carry him across the road inside the ambulance. Then one week later, a signal came from Benin that he’s dead. I was so sorry."

Biafra agitators today

Abakpa, who is now a grandfather and enjoying his retirement; having survived two bullet shots in the war, is pleading with the Biafra agitators, led by Nnamdi Kanu, not to force another war, as the consequences with be disastrous to all.

“War is not good because you do not know who is going to be the victim, nobody is praying for war, especially those who have witnessed it. War changes things, making the rich to become poor and the poor to become rich, many lives will go, family will scatter because everyone will be running for their lives. The father will not know where the mother is, and the children will not know the whereabout of their parents.

“The children that want to get the Biafra by all means today were not born in 1970, they have not experienced the war. Those that have experienced the war will not agree to them, it is the youth born after the Civil War that are making all this noise.

“My advice to them is that they should not get Biafra by force, they should calm down. We have an experience with Cameroon who did not use force. They should take that type of step and Biafra can be achieved.

“They should not get Biafra by force, if they use force, it will turn to another war, and modern weapon now is even beyond human control. The damage will be disastrous."

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